Match review: Stoke 0 - 0 Liverpool

Posted by lachesis on January 14, 2009, 06:01:18 PM

You won't find a Liverpool fan worth their salt that would disagree with any of the points that Rafa made in the now infamous Friday press conference. Although sarcasm and sattire have their strengths and effects rooted in impeccable delivery and timing, the joke about Scolari and zonal marking didn't seem to raise the muffled laughter that you would expect to hear. I'm sure like most Liverpool fans, when he said it, you kind of cringed at the timing of it as well - just before our game against Stoke to go six points clear.

Intellectually, we know that these are mutual exclusive events and one does not affect the other, but logically we also know that when players, managers et al make these kind of statements, they really do come back to bite you on the arse. I believe I've calmed down enough to make some sort of overall summary of the game, and dissolve some of the frantic mass hysteria that now grips us all again.

First of all, it's important that everyone calms down and realises two things. In the first half the season, we drew with Stoke at home and still managed to finish top of the pile at the midpoint. Second, nothing has changed and nothing will change if United win today on the back of this result. The only thing that will shift is the power of a solitary point. Last week, the league title was in our hands, but it was also in Uniteds' hands. If we won all our games we would be crowned champions; if United did the same they would be - with the key clash coming at Old Trafford between the two sides. In the bigger picture this remains the case exclusive on the result today.

Stoke are coming in for some pretty heavy stick, from myself included for the way they play. The referee we had yesterday seems to favour the all action, limbs flailing method of approach and it's no surprise to see why Stoke have won the other two games at home he has reffed for them. Not that I'm blaming the referee for our performance, but his method of doing so allowed Stoke to bully us out the game and not establish a foothold in the game with our passing. Another ref may have calmed down proceedings and told Cresswell that he wasn't playing rugby. The type of ref that would dismiss a player allowing us to go on and sneak a winner like United did at this ground.

The toughest thing about this is that you can't really pass criticism of Stoke after you have drew like this because it seems bitter, this is not the case. Frankly, against us and United they played 'effectively', but using alehouse tactics and a long throw, or line-in; it's just a surprise we don't see Johnny Wilkinson taking the free kicks for them as well. The tackles were ill disciplined and not controlled enough for my liking, indeed Kitson resorted to WWE headlocks to nullify Skrtel.

Anyway, onto our side and the outpouring of fury. Stoke was a bad performance by everyone. Apart form Skrtel I can't say anyone came away with great credit. Even Sami had his moment of madness when he galloped forward to just give the ball to Stoke.and put us under pressure. In termss of the lineup, I thought it was pretty strong, with Keane on the bench and Torres not ready to be risked against more physical opponents just yet. Without Insua we replaced him with Aurelio, our first choice left back. Skrtel came in for Agger because of injury, but this was a change I thought would happen anyway, with a more compromising style in the Slovak.

We actually started quite well in the first twenty minutes and dominated possession and frustrated Stoke, however Stoke bullied their way into the game and forced us into a shell. We nearly snatched a win in the dying embers of the game from Gerrard hitting the bar and gthen the post. Beyond the first twenty minutes, it turned into a very scrappy midfield fight, and it's easy to see why United also struggled here until the loss of a Stoke player.

Beyond this summary, the game was very lacklustre, and probably the less said about it the better. It was encouraging again to see Torres enter the fray and come through unscathed. In the grand scheme of things, the lack of injuries going into the crunch week was nice, but we must now put to bed this wobble and exert ourselves to the full in batting aside these teams if we are to remain on course to win the league.

Noticed no-one didn't really want this, so I've just wrote up a short piece really to keep the momentum on these things going.  I imagine the derby will be quite rampant with volunteers :) I haven't seen another one, but if someone has already do one, feel free to just insert the graphic at the top.


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